The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Identities, Embodiments and Selves

Identities, Embodiments and Selves


The focus of this research cluster is to theoretically and empirically explore the complexities embedded in the production, maintenance and transgressions of social identities and modes of embodiment.

Sociology here has had a long term interest – in both research and teaching – in specific areas of identity formation and politics. For example, several of us are well known for our work on gendered and sexual identities. Reflecting shifts in broader social theory (and making a contribution to it) we are increasingly interested in bodies and embodiment, in some aspects connected to gender and sexualities, but also linked to other aspects of lived experience and social regulation and resistance.

These broad areas reflect the diverse interests of cluster members, both in Sociology and those affiliated within other disciplines and other universities, who have particular interests in how identity, the body and everyday experience intersect with a wide range of human experiences and social organisation. These include:

  • social class
  • community
  • youth
  • ageing
  • disability
  • healthcare, health and life sciences
  • family identities
  • national and regional identities
  • ethnicities
  • media
  • mobilities and travel
  • religion

Cluster members

Cluster members themselves undertake work across a range of countries.

Colleagues have conducted original theoretical and empirical research on identity in relation to social class; youth cultures and urban space; disabilities and adult transitions; regional identities; ethnicity and youth; masculinities/femininities; communities; parenting and the family.

Several members of the cluster work on identity, the body and experience in the context of health and the life sciences, such as identities produced through various new reproductive and genetic technologies, reproductive loss and bereavement; embodiment in obesity and disability, experiences in death and dying, and the professional-user relationship in healthcare.

Working with local communities

Although much of our work is international in focus, many cluster members engage and work with those communities that are based in the region.

We have a further strand of work extending theoretical development by considering embodiment and identity, and their complex relationship to inequality, with a particular focus on the North-East of England. Previous work in this area has explored:

  • youth cultures
  • urban change and identities within the night time economy in the region
  • lesbian and gay urban and rural lives in Teesside
  • the identities of men of Irish descent in post-industrial Tyneside

Similarly group members are interested in the interrelationships between citizenship, embodiment and participation in the culture of scientific research in the North-East. For example, the recruitment of local people to donate body parts to scientific and clinical research and for treatment.


Dr Matt Benwell
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3935

Dr Mark Casey
Lecturer in Sociology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7921

Professor Cathrine Degnen
Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8467

Dr Dariusz Gafijczuk
Lecturer in Sociology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5610

Dr Ruth Graham
Dean of Taught Programmes for HaSS Faculty; Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6987

Emerita Professor Erica Haimes
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, PEALS Research Centre

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3252 (messages)

Dr Ruth McAreavey
Reader in Sociology

Telephone: 0191 208 7494

Dr Pauline McCormack
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3261

Professor Janice McLaughlin
Professor of Sociology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7511

Dr Adél Pásztor
Lecturer in Sociology

Telephone: +44 (0)191 208 5576

Professor Diane Richardson
Professor of Sociology & Social Policy

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7643

Dr Sarah Winkler-Reid
Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Telephone: +44 (0)191 208 8697

Postgraduate Projects

Pardis Asadi Zeidabadi Conceptions of democracy in secular and religious feminism in contemporary Iran. An empirical exploration
Carl Bonner-Thompson ‘No camp, no fem’: exploring masculinities and sexualities across Grindr

James Cummings

A Study of Emergent Non-Normative Sexual Identities in Hainan Province, China

Kathy Davies

Understanding Women’s Holiday Relationships (UWHR)

Matthew Hanchard

Towards a digital sociology of map use

Nathar Iqbal

Exploring everyday social and political geographies and encounters of non-heterosexual Muslims in the UK

Yang Li

Screening Tibet from Three Perspectives: An Exploration of Representations of Tibet in Western, Tibetan and Han Chinese Films

Hannah Lyons

Assembling the nation: spatialising young, religious American's affective experiences of the nation, fear and danger in the everyday

William McGovern

An exploration of social capital and self-help in non-traditional 12 steps setting

Sunil Rodger

Journeying, exploring the experiences of power wheelchair users

Lauren Powell

NE1 Using This Space? A Study of Inchoate Open Spaces in an Urban Setting

Constance Sabiru

Gender Performativity in Dagaaba Marriage: Implications for Social Relations and Community Development

Clare Vaughan

Violence and Fear in Homeless Careers: A Biographical Investigation of Young Women at Risk of Homelessness